The Fine Art of Deception Sydney Riley Series Book 9
by Jeannette de Beauvoir Genre: Mystery, Female Sleuth
Trouble is in the wind for wedding planner and amateur sleuth Sydney Riley
Her boss Glenn has grown secretive; her best friend Mirela is hiding something, and Sydney’s daily routine at the Race Point Inn has grown stale. Sydney’s boyfriend, Ali, is in town as part of an investigation whose details he’s hesitant to share, and living together in her tiny apartment has become a challenge, to say the least. Any charm she’d found in her hand-to-mouth existence has disappeared.
Something has to give—and it does: A visit from Sydney’s father turns treacherous when the investigation of a hit-and-run death leads her to the intimidating and subterranean world of high-priced art. Then Glenn vanishes as a dangerous storm races up the coast, and Sydney comes face-to-face with deception—both on canvas and in real life.
Jeannette de Beauvoir’s flare for drama, detail, and suspense brings the art world to life in this ninth book in the Provincetown Mystery Series.
Jeannette de Beauvoir didn’t set out to murder anyone—some things are just meant to be! Her mother introduced her to the Golden Age of mystery fiction when she was far too young to be reading it, and she’s kept reading those authors and many like them ever since.
She wrote historical and literary fiction and poetry for years before someone asked her what she read—and she realized mystery was where her heart was. Now working on the Sydney Riley Provincetown mystery series, she bumps off a resident or visitor to her hometown on a regular basis.
Jeannette is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, the Author’s Guild, and the National Writers Union. She presents a weekly radio show on the arts streaming on WOMR, a Pacifica network affiliate, and is theatre critic for ptownie.com. Find out more (and read her blog or sign up for her newsletter) at jeannettedebeauvoir.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Instagram, Patreon, and Goodreads.
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
I’ve always been a writer. It’s all I’ve ever been really good at, though I had to fail at several other careers before I was ready to accept that. When I was in some summer camp in third grade the staff predicted that someday I’d be an author, so maybe the writing was—so to speak!—on the wall. After that, it was just a matter of focusing on my writing practice, about writing more difficult things, about finding my voice.
What is something unique/quirky about you?
Um—everything? Okay, seriously… I find using the telephone very difficult. Even transactional calls (making an appointment, verifying information, etc.) is panic-inducing for me. I have friends who use the telephone for building and maintaining relationships, and I am always a disappointment to them. Email saves me. (I also have opinions about the telephone—people who call out of the blue to chat are in essence saying, I don’t care if this is a good time for you, it’s a good time for me. My schedule is more important than yours.” That’s disrespect. With emails, I can send the thought when I have it, and you can answer at your leisure when you have time. Much more courteous.)
What are some of your pet peeves?
I live in a tourist destination, so I have to say, the yearly influx of people here who behave poorly is right at the top of that list. My town isn’t an ashtray (speaking metaphorically), it’s someone’s home, too.
Where were you born/grew up at?
I grew up in a number of places but my primary home is Angers, in France’s Loire Valley.
If you knew you'd die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
Who is your hero and why?
I have so many. One who stands out is Dorothy Day. She was a writer, a social activist, and a politically radical Catholic, all of which are important to me and my life. She co-founded the Catholic Worker Movement and has a lot to say to our own times: in an age marked by widespread violence, impersonal government, shallow interpersonal commitments, and a quest for self-fulfillment, her spirit fosters nonviolence and our shared personal responsibility to the poorest among us.
What kind of world ruler would you be?
A terrible one. I’d give everything away.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve always been a writer, but it took a long time for me to claim it as a description. Probably in my teens, when I wrote my first medieval novel. I really felt then that I was doing something deliberately and carefully, rather than just writing self-absorbed adolescent poetry (the latter of which was, needless to say, uniformly bad).
Do you have a favorite movie?
I have several, actually. Casablanca remains a constant—that movie has *everything* and has aged surprisingly well. I loved both Reds and Chariots of Fire, which drew me into a tumultuous and exciting time. More recently I’ve been looking for movies that help me regain some sort of confidence in the innate goodness of humanity: so I love Pride and Thirteen Lives.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
All of them. Seriously. I think each has an exciting background that can carry the story no matter who the actors are.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
The Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
The crow. Smart and curious and playful and unafraid to make noise.
What inspired you to write this book?
A deadline? As I’m writing a series, that deadline always preys on me! But I’d recently revisited the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, and at the same time read an article about art fraud… that all piqued my interest. Provincetown is the country’s oldest continuously operating art colony, so I figured it was time to portray that in one of the series books.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I think this series still has a while to go; this ninth book introduced some major changes in the characters’ lives, so it will be fun to see what they do with those changes. I also am starting a new series with a new protagonist that will involve a fair bit of travel, so I’m looking forward to that.
Who designed your book covers?
My publisher found an amazing artist named Miladinka Milic, who has done the covers for this whole series.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
This book is daring: I didn’t follow the usual mystery formula that dictates a body appearing within the first three chapters. So it’s very different in that sense. We’ll see what people think of it. If they hate it, I’ll wish I had stuck to the formula for sure!
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
I do name some real people in my books, but don’t use them as major characters. Characters are all made up, though I might pick up a gesture, an expression, that sort of thing from people I observe. But a great deal of the fun of writing (and storytelling in general) is to create people and bring them to life.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reins of the story?
Totally my characters. I admire writers who can plot an entire book and make their characters bend to their will—I read somewhere that John Irving knows the first and last line of his book and the last line of each chapter before he starts the first draft, for example. It’s known as a classic dichotomy—to plot or to write to discover—but at the end of the day, we do what works for us. Within five pages of starting a novel, my characters are already telling me what they want to do. It’s easier not to fight them--and it makes for a better story!
Have you written any other books that are not published?
Ha! Of course! Some, naturally, weren’t worth publishing; a few never found the right “home”; some are partials. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have some unfinished or imperfect stories on their computers’ hard drives!
What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?
Not sure I could name 10, but I’m passionate about several. First is Phil Rickman—do yourselves a favor, go out right now and read everything he’s written. His plots have more twists and turns than you can imagine, and there’s always a whiff of the supernatural at play. Absolutely marvelous. For sheer beautiful lyrical writing along with fantastic characters and interesting plots, read everything Tana French has written. I want to be her when I grow up. I always say that Mary Stewart taught me everything I know about writing; especially read Nine Coaches Waiting, The Ivy Tree, and The Moonspinners. Though some of his work is a little uneven, I love reading and re-reading William Lashner’sVeritas. It’s difficult for readers in the 21st century to not get irritated with Helen MacInnes’ misogyny and politics, but for a terrific wartime novel, Assignment in Brittany can’t be beaten. And speaking of wartime, for French-speaking audiences, I completely recommend Christine de Rivoyre’s Le Petit Matin. And I cannot neglect the brilliant English thriller writers who I still read and re-read: Gavin Lyall, Adam Hall, Geoffrey Household. All three provide a masterclass in quickening readers’ heartrates!
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
All of my novels have something real behind them. It may be a snippet of history, an unsolved crime, a particular milieu. And whatever the spark is that started the process of thinking, “that would work in a novel…” needs, then, to be investigated. I feel I have an unwritten contract with my readers: you give me your time, I’ll give you a story. But if that story uses components that I haven’t researched or know much about, I’ll make mistakes, and fail in delivering my part of the contract. Are there still mistakes? No doubt; we’re all human. But I keep them to a minimum and do everything I can to understand what it is I’m talking about before I start talking about it.
Do you see writing as a career?
Well, if it’s not, please don’t tell my mortgage holder!
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
What a funny question. Are there really writers who don’t read? I can’t imagine what they’d have to say. I read all the time. I read at the checkout line in the supermarket; I walk around my house with a book in hand (even walking into furniture, I am so engrossed); I read first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I read a great deal of nonfiction, both for research and to be an educated person in the world; I read mysteries and historical fiction and thrillers.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
Silence. Even music is distracting. It’s good that I live alone!
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
Oh, usually two. But one’s the immediate focus; the other is there when I get stuck on the first one. Then I finish the first one and the secondary novel takes center stage!
Pen or typewriter or computer?
Computer, a thousand times over. Look, I wrote my first published novel on a typewriter. So here’s what happens: you type a page and then you see one word towards the top that isn’t exactly right. It’s close, though, and do you really want to retype the whole page just to make one word marginally better? Of course not. And those marginal words add up. I love being able to write anything… and, later, make changes. It’s the only way to write!
What are you currently reading?
Right now I’m reading nonfiction about Mount Everest. (Yeah, it’s research.) But at bedtime I’m reading Lisa Gardner.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I think a lot of inexperienced writers want to “feel” it in order to write. Wait for the Muse to descend and inspire them. The truth is, that rarely happens. Writing is work. It might be wonderful work, it may be what you love to do, but it is still work. You still have to keep the seat of your pants in the seat of the chair, day in and day out, hour after hour, even when all you’re doing is staring at the screen.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Except for last year, I am generally doing between one and two books every year.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
I believe we get stuck. I think having a fancy name for it isn’t in our best interests, though… that goes back to just waiting for the Muse to strike. So… write something else. But don’t stop writing. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to get back to it. I speak here from experience.